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Originally released on the 3DS eShop several months ago, SteamWorld Dig has now come to Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam. This port of the 2D mining adventure has a fresh coat of paint thanks to new high-definition art, and if it looks appealing in still images, wait until you see this in motion running at a smooth 60 frames per second.
Tony Ponce reviewed the handheld version back in August and while I generally agree with his assessment, the game left a much better impression on me. In fact, I loved nearly every moment of my time spent with SteamWorld Dig.
It's just a shame there isn't more of it.
SteamWorld Dig (PC, Mac, Linux)
Before I get too much further, it should be explicitly mentioned that SteamWorld Dig is missing a number of options PC gamers are used to seeing. This becomes clear the second you venture into the options menu. Graphical settings are limited to checkboxes for Fullscreen, Bloom, and VSync, and while mouse and keyboard controls are implemented, this is yet another one of those games that's best played with a gamepad.
Whether or not an absence of customization options bothers you in ports like this is up to you, but personally, I don't mind -- not when the core game is so ridiculously enjoyable. After a slow start with little in the way of equipment, SteamWorld Dig quickly picks up. You'll be digging away like mad, collecting minerals, returning to the surface to sell them for upgrades, and repeating the process again and again.
This is how it will go for some time, with occasional trips into mandatory self-contained puzzle-like areas for ability upgrades like running, a high jump, or a fist attack. I must say, the animation for these moments of "assimilation" is great. Just wonderful. It's so easy to draw comparisons to Metroid these days, but that game was clearly an inspiration and not just in terms of areas being inaccessible without certain powers.
Purchases can be prioritized, allowing for a bit of freedom. I went for pickaxe and drill upgrades above armor or lantern improvements in an effort to save myself time in the long run. I think this was the right move, even as someone who loves the admittedly simple gameplay involved with destroying soil. If you too have an affinity for games like Mr. Driller, you're going to be in heaven here, particularly at the tail end of SteamWorld Dig.
There are a couple of aesthetic changes to the world as you delve deeper, culminating in mechanical elements and foes. This is by no means a difficult game, but it's certainly possible to die if you become careless, which carries a monetary penalty. I specifically say this as a warning to players who want to buy literally everything possible, as there's a finite amount of resources and a few too many deaths could mean you won't have the necessary funds.
Towards the end, areas open up considerably as you're given a powerful double-jump ability that'll have you feeling like a proper badass. Unfortunately, it's not longer after this point that you will be facing down the game's only boss. It's a neat little encounter, one which sadly marks the end of SteamWorld Dig. Just like that, it's all over. A bit disappointing, if I'm being honest.
The first thing I did after beating the story was go back and try to find every single mineral, but after that, I started a new game (there are three separate save files). SteamWorld Dig is only a few hours long, but don't let that scare you away -- it's fairly replayable. I wish it were longer, or that there was perhaps some sort of endless mode, I really do.
That said, the pacing is quite good once the action gets going, and I'd rather be left feeling empowered and wanting more than having to put up with a game that just won't end already. Thankfully, Image & Form plans to do more SteamWorld games. Sign me up!
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4:00 PM on 09.16.2014